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I resolved not to live under my brother’s shadow – Tessy, top fashion designer and Sunday Oliseh’s

The first thing that would strike anyone that is meeting Tessy, a top fashion designer and younger sister of ex-Super Eagles star, Sunday Oliseh, for the first time is that, unlike other women, she wears only one earring. But she told Saturday Punch that she chose to do so as a mark of identity. The petite designer admitted she had been embarrassed on many occasions by people who ask about the missing earring on her right ear, not knowing that wearing an earring only on her left ear is something she chose to do.

She said, “I tell people that my clothes are for risk takers. If you don’t have the courage, it may be very difficult to wear them. When I wear a clothe, I want people to be wowed. There is nothing you want to do that people have not done before; it is all about how you play with it. That is what creativity is all about. For me, I have this trade mark. I wear only one earring. Naturally, I buy two earrings, but I wear just one. Because of that, people have come to see it as a weird way of dressing for a woman. But that is my own identity.

“Many times, people run up to me to tell me that I have lost my second earring. I just say thank you.”

Tessy Oliseh, hit it big in the fashion scene after winning the best designer award in 2006. She clinched the award with a beautiful wedding dress she created from calabash and an evening dress that was applauded. Soon after, however, she vanished from the radar, leading to speculations that she fizzled out as suddenly as she appeared. But lately, she has re-emerged as one of the leading lights in the fashion industry.

When our correspondent ran into the youthful UK-trained stylist on Wednesday, it was natural to ask her why she disappeared at a time she was expected to consolidate on her conquest. But the award winner explained that she returned to the UK to hone her skills in the business world.

“I didn’t go out of fashion; I was always in business,” she said. “What I did was to travel to find out the secrets of the success stories of the big designers abroad. I tried to find out what and what they were doing to make their business grow, which we are not doing in Nigeria. Fair enough you go to school to study fashion, but you need to find out how things are done practically after you leave school. That was what I did. It is not that I left the Nigeria.”

Tessy is the last born of the Oliseh family and the only girl. Apart from Sunday, there are three other brothers and almost all of them have taken to football. But rather than sitting down and dwelling on the popularity of her brothers, Tessy chose an unusual course by taking to fashion. But while she could simply have gone to a fashion centre, spend two or three years and tag herself a fashion designer, she chose to get some education. Because of her passion for fashion, she had to go to England for a degree in the discipline, which she obtained from the famous Middlesex University. All together, she spent seven years before she came back to found her fashion house called Tesslo Concepts.

She told Saturday Punch that she could well have settled for training as a mere tailor, but because she hails from a home that is full of stars, she vowed to excel in her own way, so that whatever recognition she enjoyed would not be based on the success stories of her brothers.

She said, “There is a difference between a tailor and a fashion designer. A tailor finds it difficult to know what colour combination is all about. But if you go to fashion school, you are taught how to do the business, the branding, the merchandising, everything. It is a total package. So, you can’t just say you are a tailor. Most tailors don’t go to school, but as a fashion designer, you go to school, you do what an accountant does in their first, second year. You can imagine the stuff they teach you. That was the reason I had to travel abroad to have a degree in my field.

“Fashion design is inborn for me. It is something I am passionate about, so there is no way I am going to study say Law when I am not happy in it and at the end of the day, I find that I am not fulfilled. For me, as the only girl, I was the only one taking care of the colours and the suitable setting of the home while my brothers were always talking about football. So, less than a year after my training, I came back and won the award as the best designer in Nigeria at the Nigeria Fashion Show. You know people used to know the Olisehs as footballers. But with the award, people began to reckon with us in fashion, and I am happy I am in the forefront in that respect.”

Tessy paid glowing tributes to her big brother, Sunday Oliseh, for all the support he gave her while she underwent training in school. She, however, said she was delighted to create her own image as a top designer, away from the shadows of her footballer brothers.

As someone from a home of footballers, she could as well have dreamt of becoming a female footballer, but Tessy had other ideas. “But for football, I would not be here today, honestly speaking. But at the same time, football is not what I want to do. It is not something I am passionate about from the outset. It was fashion that I needed to do. But thank God, my brothers made a mark in football and I am proud of them,” she said.

As the last born and only girl in the family, she could seek to live on the fame of her brothers, but Tessy laughed off the suggestion, saying that it would be foolhardy of anyone to choose a life like that.

“I know we all need someone to come up. But at the same time, you have to work for yourself, because this money is not your money. You have to work for your own money. My brother, Sunday, worked for his money. He played for Nigeria. He played in Europe and he was able to make a mark for himself. So I want to go into the fashion industry and make a mark for myself. I am so happy that football and fashion are totally different. I want to make a point. I don’t want you to see me as one of the Olisehs, the footballers. You should look at me and say she is creative. I want you to take me out of the box and say ‘she is different, aside answering Oliseh, she has something to offer.’ For me, if you have parents or brothers that are rich, that does not guarantee your being rich. You have to go out and fight for yourself. So, that is what I am doing. The name is a plus for me, no doubt. But I am so happy that I am doing something different from football. I am working seriously on my own brand identity. So, the next time they mention Oliseh, I can confidently stand out without being under the shadow of the name. ”

Tessy dispelled insinuations that Sunday Oliseh is not happy with Nigeria and that is why he has kept away from football affairs in the country. “That is not true,” she said. “You can’t do that to a country that made you. He is currently in England. He is on BBC to talk about his country, Nigeria, over the ongoing World Cup. I was with him in Belgium two weeks ago, and he was very proud to tell admirers who recognised his face as a Nigerian football star. He loves this country a lot and does not have any problem with Nigeria.

“He is a supportive person. I recall how he gave me all the support the very day I told him that I was going to school to study fashion. It is great being his sister and people easily recognise me as one that looks like him. But I am happy now that people say yes, you are Tesslo. I am happy to be known that way.”

She reiterated her resolve to remain in Nigeria while all her brothers are abroad. “I have tried to live abroad but there is no way I will go away; the cold and everything. I can only go on holiday. I always tell people that Nigeria is good. You live in Europe and you find that nobody really knows who you are. There is no place like home. You always come first in your country while you are second when you go to another man’s country. For me, there is nothing like home.,” she said.

Still single, Tessy says she has an open mind concerning marriage. She did not completely spun the idea of having a footballer as a husband, but as far as she is concerned, it is only God that can decide that.

“There is nothing that is impossible for God to do. But for me, if that is what God wants for me, I don’t have a choice. If God says I am going to get married to a footballer or I am going to get married to a lawyer, I will not complain.”

Will she seek Sunday’s approval whenever she decides to pick a partner? Tessy says she has always enjoyed an independent mind even though she gets support from her brothers.

“What I want in someone is humility. Everything is not everything. Nobody decides for me in that aspect as well, because at the end of the day, it is you and the person that will live together while your brother lives happily with his own family. There is no way I am going to consult any of my brothers on who I am going to marry. They can only advise; they can’t decide or impose anyone on me.”

And will she drop Oliseh as her surname when she gets married?

“It is up to the man. At the same time, it is up to me. It has to be a mutual agreement between the two of us. Now I am trying to work my way as Oliseh, then as Tesslo. I may have to accommodate my surname and the name of my husband.”

One other plus Tessy enjoys is that her brother, Sunday, wears her clothes and through him too, she has met other great people who are interested in her creations. “Like I told you, I was in Belgium with him two weeks ago and I had a whole lot for him and we had an opportunity to meet some great players as well. We met Zidane, for example. They are very good friends, especially while my brother was at Juventus. Zidane couldn’t believe that the designs were made in Nigeria, but I told him I made them. I use my brother as a platform too to market myself.”

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Chuka (Webby) Aniemeka
Chuka (Webby) Aniemeka

Chuka is an experienced certified web developer with an extensive background in computer science and 18+ years in web design &development. His previous experience ranges from redesigning existing website to solving complex technical problems with object-oriented programming. Very experienced with Microsoft SQL Server, PHP and advanced JavaScript. He loves to travel and watch movies.

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